Men's movement

Men's movement

The men's movement is a social movement that includes a number of philosophies and organizations that seek to support men, change the male gender role and improve men's rights in regard to marriage and child access and victims of domestic violence. Major movements within the men's movement include men's liberation, masculism, men's health, mythopoetic men's movement, pro-feminism, anti-sexism and men's / fathers' rights as well as organizations supporting male victims of rape.

Participants vary in terms of religion, politics and sexuality with a number of women also involved. The movement is predominantly western, although since the early 1990s men's movements have been growing in non-western countries; an example is India, where dramatic rises in false accusations of dowry harassment as cited by the Karnataka judiciary in 2003 "In as many as 44% of these cases prosecution is thoroughly unjustified, bride-burning, and other issues have resulted in large scale false imprisonment of innocent men and their parents, which have in turn provided impetus to a growing men's rights movement. Attitudes vary on issues such as gender roles, human relationships, sexuality (including gay rights), reproduction (including birth control and particularly the abortion debate), work, violence (its causes and resolution) and aspects of women's rights.

According to one view, the development of the men's movement in the United States can be divided into two eras with distinctly different focuses. According to this view, the men's movement was sympathetic to feminism in the 1970s and 1980s, but that the movement was changed by detractors, who saw this approach as emasculating and misandrist. According to this view, the support of gender equity feminism within the men's movement was generally not accepted by men, though it gained considerable support from women, particularly by single parents raising boys. According to this view, members of the men's movement became more "pro-male" starting in the early 1990s and rejected gender equity feminism, which was seen as politically correct and anti-male (or misandrist). Those who hold this view refer to the perceived rejection of gender equity feminism within the men's movement as the "feminist backlash" in response to the perceived excesses of the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. According to this view, supporters of the masculist movement generally reject many, if not most, of the philosophical points of the previous men's movement that had supported gender equity.

This view is contradicted by the support of the enactment of a rebuttable presumption for shared parenting, as opposed to a return to automatic father custody, by members of the fathers' rights movement. The enactment of a rebuttable presumption for shared parenting is also supported by equity feminists, but it is opposed by the National Organization for Women. Therefore, another view contrary to those who perceive that a "feminist backlash" has occurred within the men's movement, would be that members of the men's movement continue to support gender equity, while members of the feminist movement no longer support gender equity as they once had. While some feminists and pro-feminist men hold that the men's movement, and fathers' rights groups in particular, seek to entrench patriarchy and oppose the advances made by women in society, members of the fathers' rights movement point out that their proposals for shared parenting help excluded mothers and they disagree that any substantial part of the movement is seeking a revival of ‘patriarchy’.

Men's and fathers' rights, masculism

The men's rights and fathers' rights differ in their orientation with men's rights relating more to civil law and civil rights and fathers' more to family law. However, they share some of the ideas of other groups, such as:

  • the men's liberationists' view that men's roles are harmful and limiting to men, particularly regarding the failure to enhance nurturing behaviours (and in particular in terms of their relationships with their own offspring), and
  • mythopoetics' idea that masculinity inherently comes with prescribed qualities, roles, responsibilities and privileges.

To some extent they are a reaction (or, perhaps more appropriately, a response) to feminism and there is a tendency to draw attention to feminism for harm done to men and boys through affirmative action and institutions like the family court, etc. The major men's and fathers' rights theorists dispute the proposition that all men are empowered and privileged in society. Some hold that men can be objectified as "success objects", just as women can be objectified as "sex objects" and that a symmetry exists between these roles. The majority of men's rights groups are non-religious and politically neutral, however, a few are linked to conservative Christian and non-Christian political groups and there can also be left wingers.

Issues addressed by men's rights advocates include:

  • The general neglect of male issues and the structural oppression of men (such as male depression, the fact men commit suicide approximately 4 times more often than women, constitute over 90% of the prison population, a majority of alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people, have lower levels of university attendance and life expectancy etc.)
  • Women's role in and responsibility for family or domestic violence.
  • Family courts' discrimination against men.
  • The correlation between single parent families (ie: single mother families) and an increased crime rate and prevalence of drug abuse in children.
  • The false claims of domestic violence or child sexual abuse routinely put forth by women during divorce proceedings.
  • Ethical appraisals relating to the fairness of child support procedures for non-resident parents.
  • The influence that financial/legal benefits and child support has on women's decisions to leave relationships.

Men's rights groups advocate:

Main activities include:

  • Providing support and advice for men facing proceedings in the family court
  • Providing information and advice on child support
  • Challenging many feminist-dominated aspects of the mainstream media.

Some people claim that masculism is a different strand from Men's Rights, but often it is referred to as the same. The history of masculism and the men's rights movement is complex, with numerous influences; as such many see masculism as synonymous with the men's and fathers' rights movement (see below). Masculism comprises an inter-related group of social movements to address issues of equality and justice for men, fathers, and boys. While masculist thought has been present for over a century (see, for example, The Fraud of Feminism, written by E. Belfort Bax in 1908 ), as a broad social movement it traces its origins to the divorce societies of the 1940s through 1960s. It branched off from a divorce-only emphasis to address broader issues in the mid-late 1970-s as a result of the influence of feminism.

Whereas feminism questioned the roles of women and girls in society, and highlighted the limitations and disadvantages of those roles, masculism applied analogous methods to the analysis of the male role. There are numerous strands within masculism; there are a conservative "traditionalist" patriarchical strand, a moderate equality-oriented one, and a liberal one which takes a more socialist approach and suggests a larger governmental role in resolving the problems.

Significant writers

Further reading

  • Kenneth Clatterbaugh: Contemporary Perspectives on Masculinity: Men, Women, and Politics in Modern Society, Westview Pr, 1990, ISBN 0-8133-0992-1
  • Michael Messner: Politics of Masculinities. Men in Movements, Thousand Oaks 1997, ISBN 0-8039-5576-6


Pro-feminist men see the current model of manhood as oppressive to all: women, children, and men. They feel that men as a class do not take responsibility for their behaviors and assert that men need to take responsibility for their own behaviours and attitudes and work to change those of other men. They often work with feminists and women's services, and may be involved in issues such as men's health policy, the development of gender equality curricula in schools, and the counselling of male perpetrators of violence, including domestic violence.

They see society and personal relationships as characterised by injustice and inequality, by men towards women and children, while acknowledging the interpersonal relationship problems that arise to victimise men from negative influences by the patriarchal social structure.

They believe that homophobia and hetero-centrism are key issues for all men. Whether this leads to attitudes which benefit males, while negatively affecting females, is a long-standing matter of debate.

Significant writers

Men's liberation

The perspective of men's liberation is that men are hurt by the male gender role and that men's lives are alienating, unhealthy and impoverished.

They believe that men are over-worked, trained to kill or be killed, brutalized and subjected to blame and shame. They give attention to the damage, isolation and suffering inflicted on boys and men through their socialization into manhood.

They may seek ways to "liberate" men and have some sympathy with pro-feminist views.

Activities include:

An opposing view: Many in the men's movement feel that the proper definition of "men's liberation" should imply freedom TO BE men, not freedom FROM BEING men.

Significant writers

Mythopoetic men

The Mythopoetic men's movement is based on spiritual perspectives derived from psychoanalysis, and especially the work of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and the poet Robert Bly. It is called "mythopoetic" because of the emphasis on mythology communicated as poetry with some appropriation of indigenous mythology and knowledge (Bly draws on Native American mythology). There is an emphasis on "elder honouring", "reclaiming" fathers, and "unleashing the wild man within", but with an emphasis on the impact of fatherlessness on men's psychological development which is related to their criticism of "soft" men - the victims of militant feminism and single motherhood. With the exception of a few groups such as the Radical Faeries they are generally not politically active as groups, but may be as individuals.

Masculinity is seen to include deep unconscious patterns and archetypes that are revealed through myth, story and ritual, as supported by theories drawn from analytical or "depth" psychology.

There is some overlap with men's rights and men's liberation perspectives.

Activities include:

  • Male mentoring programs (based on the belief that mature males should help boys to become healthy men)
  • Ritual, drumming and storytelling camps.
  • Support groups
  • Attempts at developing curricula for boys' programs in schools.

Significant writers

See also


External links

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